HC Deb 13 July 1961 vol 644 cc569-71
20. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what representations have been received from the Indian community in Northern Rhodesia concerning the reservation of a special constituency for Asian and coloured voters in the proposed new Constitution.

21. Mr. Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has now been informed of the views of the political parties in Northern Rhodesia, with whose representatives the Governor consulted, on the proposed constitutional changes in that territory, and of organisations representing the Asian and Coloured communities.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I have received certain representations from representatives of the Asian community in Northern Rhodesia in opposition to the proposals and am awaiting a further memorandum which I understand they propose to submit. I have also noted criticisms of the Constitution from a variety of quarters in the territory—by no means in agreement among themselves. I consider that the proposals deserve more careful consideration on their merits than they appear so far to have received, and I have noted with interest suggestions made by some political parties that there should be joint consultations in the territory on the present situation.

Mr. Thomson

Why did the Secretary of State introduce this proposal in the first place, when those concerned are against being segregated on a separate roll? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a widely held suspicion that the proposal was brought in in order to separate the Asian and coloured voters and assist the United Federal Party in the coming elections? Will he undertake, in the consultations which are to take place, to reconsider whether he ought to abandon the proposal as a result of which he has so far sacrificed a good deal of good will?

Mr. Macleod

On the political effects of it, I have received diametrically opposed viewpoints from different politicians of different races in Northern Rhodesia. I do not pretend to know how it will work. I think that the proposal deserves very careful consideration. It seems to me convenient, if there is a fifteenth seat, that it should be used for this purpose. Otherwise, the Asian population in particular would not be represented. Naturally, we shall consider the views that they have put forward. I must make the point that, when I made the announcement, I did not know the point of view of the Asian community because I made the announcement first to the House.

Mr. Brockway

The Secretary of State has answered Question No. 21 with Question No. 20, but in his Answer he has dealt only with the attitude of the Asian community. My Question asks about the views of the political parties on the proposed constitutional changes in the territory. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very deep concern felt, honestly, with a great deal of sympathy for the right hon. Gentleman, about the situation in Northern Rhodesia and the tragic situation which may develop among the African population as well as the Asian population unless these fatal constitutional proposals are changed?

Mr. Macleod

Obviously, I did not regard them as fatal; otherwise, I should never have dreamed of putting them forward. My Answer was intended to cover the attitude of the political parties. No formal representations have been received from the political parties. A number of members of political parties have expressed views, particularly on the proposal regarding Asians, and there is disagreement within the political parties in Northern Rhodesia on the merits or otherwise of the proposals which have been made.